Harbouring Innovation: Monjasa’s App Journey with Michael Bruun Østergaard
Join us in a conversation with Michael Bruun Østergaard, Group IT Director of Monjasa, as he unveils the journey behind Monjasa’s innovative app. Integrating real-time data from their global tanker fleet, the app marks a significant leap in maritime technology. Michael discusses overcoming development challenges, enhancing industry transparency, and the app’s role in Monjasa’s commitment to sustainability and efficiency.
Can you describe the journey and challenges involved in developing the Monjasa App, especially in terms of integrating real-time data flows from your global tanker fleet?
Challenging the status quo has been an integral part of Monjasa since our establishment in 2002 as a newcomer in the industry. In the early years mostly in a commercial sense, but later on also across maritime operations, introduction of ISO management systems and IT developments. And when we initially started envisioning a complete digitalisation of the process surrounding bunkering, it seemed far-fetched for many in the industry and in Monjasa.
Back then, vessels were not online like they are today. Many vessels in our fleet were running on slow satellite connections, which would offer the performance of a typical internet connection onshore back in the 1990s. This was not uncommon, and as such, it was hard to imagine a world where we could bring real-time insight of what was going on during a bunker operation into the hands of those involved onshore.
It was not that companies did not want this level of transparency, but it was tough to imagine strong data flows from the vessels.
A lot has happened to the connectedness of the world since then – not only technological advances like Starlink, but the expansion of 4G networks and the development in availability and lower costs of traditional satellite communication also play a big part.
Because of this, we began the journey of transparency through technology by focusing on structure and access to bunker price indications, as this does not rely on fleet internet performance. The first release of Monjasa’s fuel price indications went live in late 2020 and was an internal tool only that allowed our trading community to share and update price indications in a more structured manner.
Building on this successful platform adoption, we opened this data to also include our customers in 2022. This allowed our traders to invite their customers into the same ecosystem where they can now self-service price indications and initiate the actual inquiry process from our app. We launched a pre-release of the app during a customer event in Copenhagen in early 2022, and building on customer feedback at this event, we managed to secure a partnership with OMJ to provide customers with real-time market updates in addition to our price indications.
In early 2023 we then launched the current version of the Monjasa app and started onboarding ship owners to the platform.
How do you see the Monjasa App transforming the oil and shipping industries, particularly regarding transparency and efficiency?
The Monjasa app is a window into the heart of our operations. We are pushing digitalisation to the limit and our ultimate ambition is to provide complete end-to-end transparency across our operations as fast as the satellite technologies allow us to do it. We know for a fact that many other parties across the marine fuels industry have been following our developments closely since this transformation truly supports more efficient shipping operations. And that is something that all ship owners are looking for.
What has been the feedback from ship owners and charterers on the Monjasa App, and how has it influenced their decision-making process?
We have received very positive feedback from some of the ship owners who have been using the app for more than a year now. For instance, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line highlighted that instead of exchanging multiple messages about individual fuel orders, the app provides them with full transparency across all the transaction and logistic details related to the deliveries.
The app provides accurate CO2 emissions data. How does this feature align with Monjasa’s commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility?
Running a responsible business and ensuring thorough ESG reporting is an opportunity to make a difference in a carbon-heavy industry like ours – and our individual and joint carbon footprints are critical metrics needed. We already have CO2 reporting available on our platform, but we will be making it even stronger and more accessible for integration. This involves allowing customers to pull information directly from our platform into their own ESG reporting by offering customer-facing APIs for system-to-system integration. In other words, Monjasa’s customers will find it natural to receive accurate emission numbers related to a single fuel supply and integrate it into their own Scope 1 reporting.
Could you elaborate on how the real-time supply notifications work and the benefits they bring to your clients?
For most of 2023, we have been busy preparing for the next significant leg of the journey, aiming to make the world smaller by bridging the gap between onshore and offshore workplaces. This is achieved by connecting our fleet with our customers through what we call real-time deliveries.
This initiative allows customers real-time insight into the progress of their fuel delivery as we bring statements of facts directly to the customer’s mobile phone. Real-time deliveries also provide live onboard camera feeds from the vessel during delivery, as well as access to the official documents of the delivery as soon as both parties have signed them. This approach elevates personal business to a new level and shortens the processing time of all the details that come after the actual delivery.
These steps will help prepare our fleet and our customers for a fully digital process, eliminating the need to print, sign, and scan documents in the near future.
Coupled with access to all the customers’ trading history with Monjasa, the app offers the customer a ‘one-stop’ platform and strengthens collaboration across operation, crew, customer, and trader.
Are there any upcoming features or enhancements planned for the Monjasa App that you can share with us?
We will continue to live our value of curiosity by listening closely to customer feedback and adapting the platform to their requirements without compromising our vision of transparency and personal business. And while not making any promises, I can disclose a couple of initiatives we are currently investigating.
Firstly, we are exploring customer fleet management through integration with AIS providers. This would bring the location of a customer’s entire fleet into the customer cockpit, allowing for a better overview and easier bunker procurement planning.
Secondly, data democratisation is a significant aspect of transparency. We are currently investing in how we can open access to crucial information for everyone. This involves moving parts of our platform outside the fence of authentication to simply offer insight to everyone through our public website.
As the Group IT Director, how do you see the role of IT evolving in the bunkering industry, especially with the increasing demand for real-time data and digital solutions?
None of this is possible without our IT department understanding the world of bunkering. The more insight we have into every step of our process – whether that is the importance of the relations we have with our customers, the challenge of multitasking a bunker operation, or the details that go into an actual bunker delivery onboard a chemical tanker – the better equipped we are to design, develop, and deploy a system that caters to our customers’ specific needs.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring IT professionals who are interested in entering the maritime and energy sectors?
Observe and navigate, stay curious and ambitious, and also remember to respect the traditions of our industry, as most of these are there for good reasons.
Overall, I believe we are in for a change in the expectations of information flows, connectedness, and transparency – just like we have seen other industries undergo similar changes, such as the taxi industry disruption by companies like Uber and Careem, the commercial flight industry disruption by companies like Expedia, and the hospitality industry disruption by companies like Airbnb and Hotels.com.
With the advancements of our digital platform, we are trying to stay ahead of the curve – adapting to our customers’ expectations and requirements as fast as we can by building a tool that will complement the bunker industry without demanding radical changes in operation or commercial model.
Our platform will be a solid foundation for new ideas on how to work even closer to prepare the bunkering industry for the significant changes we currently see on the horizon as the industry prepares for a future that is less reliant on fossil fuels.
We welcome the challenge and believe Monjasa is in an excellent position to help the industry navigate these changes; curiosity and ambition are in our DNA, and with our 20 years of experience in the industry, we have the knowledge and respect needed to drive digital transformation in a global and complex industry.